Innovation is crucial for change. Climate change is undoubtedly the biggest threat facing us and every industry has a responsibility to respond to this, and look for more sustainable, climate-resilient ways of working.
The timber industry has been providing a low-carbon solution to the built environment for years. Trees capture CO2 and store it as carbon, wood products stop that CO2 entering the atmosphere for the lifetime of that product. It supports sustainable forestry practices that grow more trees, capturing more CO2, and it helps replace other fossil-fuel intensive products in construction.
But the timber industry is still constantly evolving and innovating, finding new ways to use wood to provide flexible, beautiful, sustainable solutions for the construction and design industry. We’ve selected a few different ventures below that showcase the different ways the timber industry is continuing to innovate, challenge and change how we use wood.
Over the last couple of years, the demand for solid colour decors in kitchen and bedroom design has soared in popularity. The trend has now evolved with customers looking for a broader choice of textures similar to those created by painted timber. In 2020, EGGER introduced the Texture Meets Colour range, which allows customers to mix and match decors and textures to suit their needs. Suitable for door frontals, carcassing, wall panels and wardrobes the range is available as Melamine Faced Chipboard (MFC) that combines different colours and textures to look like painted wood.
The MFC boards are made up of:
According to EGGER, this gives the boards a negative carbon footprint of -13.3kg CO²/m²! The solution is cost-effective and low maintenance for customers, ensuring that there are sustainable options to suit every budget and customer.
Post-covid has seen a shift in the way we approach designing offices with more emphasis on health and wellbeing in shared office spaces, and an increased interest in creating sustainable spaces. The NearHome project, supported by Scottish Government funding and Construction Scotland Innovation Council, is a new modular toolkit designed to retrofit office spaces internally with little impact on the building’s external structure.
The kits are designed to create work hubs that provide safe, hygienic and connected work environments. The parts within the kit are made from Scottish timber and include a structural timber frame and modular wall panels with wood-fibre insulation. The kit is designed to be flexible and adaptable to existing spaces, is easily deconstructed and re-used, and different elements can be tailored to each client’s needs. For example, the modular wall panels can be finished with living wall elements, wood or other designs.
NearHome provides a solution to costly retrofit projects, whilst promoting sustainability, through reducing the need to demolish existing office space, and using more home-grown timber.
3D-Veneer allows for the design and industrial production of organic wood shapes hence 3D-Veneer ushers in a new era in wood design. While bending wood was previously restricted by narrow parameters, the introduction of 3D-Veneers opens up completely new possibilities.
During the conversion to 3D veneer the process is highly technical and involves many challenging steps like applying glue stripes to the back face, cutting the individual stripes at an extremely low tolerance and high precision final sanding.
The ability to take a naturally low-carbon material and use it in non-traditional settings opens up possibilitiesfor designers to to specify wood over other competing materials.
Pallets and packaging are not often the first product area that comes to mind when discussing wood, but they provide a vital service transporting goods across the country.
Compared to other materials, wooden pallets can be much easier to repair, reuse and recycle (over lockdown, DIY pallet garden furniture was hard to miss on social media!). Reusing and prolonging the lifespan of a wood product allows the carbon it stores to be kept out of the atmosphere for longer.
James Jones & Son already have a thriving business in pallet production, repair and recycling but they saw an opportunity to increase the lifespan of their pallets. They invented Upall: a robust, fitted plastic guard placed on the areas of pallets most commonly damaged. Not to detract from wooden pallets ability to be recycled, the guards are fully recyclable too.
But – most importantly – the new guards increase the pallet’s lifespan by up to, or over, 300%. The innovation behind Upall illustrates how small changes can have a lasting affect on a product’s sustainability credentials!
Finnish company, Metsa Wood recently launched a new hybrid sandwich wall element that aims to increase the amount of wood used in construction in an efficient and effective way.
It may seem counter-intuitive for a timber company to be working in co-operation with a concrete company, but this hybrid solution helps to encourage innovation within the concrete industry and provide more sustainable solutions to traditional building products and methods.
The hybrid wall element, Kerto LVL, allows concrete companies to create a sandwich wall with a wooden element in it, allowing it to replace traditional fully concreted elements. This not only helps to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions through reduction of more fossil-fuel intensive materials, it also helps to reduce operational emissions. The elements can be produced quickly offsite and is much lighter than the traditional product.
With the construction industry constantly looking for ways to become more sustainable, it will be essential to find solutions that can help to reduce emissions across all sectors. Collaboration and innovation within the construction industry as a whole will help construction become more sustainable.
In Scotland, over 85% of new homes are built with structural timber, mostly imported from Scandinavia and the Baltics. Historically, softwood produced in the UK has been aimed at other markets but a consortium of partners in Scotland is currently working on a new project that aims to illustrate the true potential of home-grown timber rich products in construction in the UK.
The consortium consists of: Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC); Edinburgh Napier University Centre for Offsite Construction & Innovative Structures; ECOSystems Technologies; Scottish Forestry; Confederation of Forest Industries; and sustainable developer SNRG.
Using three different mass timber systems all manufactured from homegrown timber – Cross Laminated, Nail Laminated and Glue Laminated timber – and a new product – Glue Laminated Timber Portals – the team will create a full two-storey, two-bedroom apartment for SNRG to showcase at COP26 in Glasgow in November. The consortium hopes that the project will lead to mainstream adoption of and investment in home-grown timber in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Increasing the use of material grown in the UK will help to reduce reliance on imports, but it will also allow for timber products grown in the UK to be used in long-life projects such as housing, keeping carbon sequestered in the products out of the atmosphere for longer.
More information can be found on the CSIC website.